TEFL certifications are a little complex. You have a few options and there’s no right or wrong answer, it really depends on what you’re looking for, how much teaching experience you have and where you want to teach.
In this article, I’ll do my best to lay out the various options you have, explaining some of the benefits and drawbacks of each so you’re armed with the information you need to make the right decision for your circumstances.
Let’s start right at the beginning. Apologies if you know some of this already, I just wanted to make sure we don’t leave anyone behind.
To teach English you don’t actually need a TEFL certification, not like there are specific requirements to teach English in a school in our own countries.
The fact is, each country has their own regulations and most of them are related to work visas, rather than qualifications. A lot of countries require you to have 1 form of qualification to be eligible for the work visa.
However, if you’re British or Irish, and you’re looking in Europe, you don’t need a visa and there are plenty of schools that would have you without any qualifications. These schools primarily use their own methodology and train their own teachers before each school year.
So you don’t need a TEFL certificate as you would a driving license but in most countries, you’ll need it for the visa and anyway, which adds up to the same thing.
Most importantly, if you have no teaching experience it’s probably a good idea to do a TEFL course so you actually have an idea what to do in the classroom!
To get a TEFL certification, you pretty much have 6 options (sorry). A CELTA course, a 4 week, classroom-based TEFL course, a virtual course, an online course, a mixed TEFL course and a weekend course.
This is like having a Mercedes, it’s the most prestigious TEFL course you could do. Essentially, some TEFL schools go through the accreditation process and if successful can run courses which results in a CELTA certification upon graduation.
Most CELTA courses tend to be 4 weeks long and have an assessed teaching practice component. A good CELTA and a good TEFL course are likely to deliver the same quality of training, however, with everything else being equal, you are much more likely to get the job if you have a CELTA.
TEFL Courses are essentially CELTAs but without the stamp on the TEFL certificate. Many will take the CELTA syllabus and base their own course on it.
Likewise, they tend to be 3-4 weeks long and include teaching practice. They can be a little less expensive because they don’t incur the same costs as schools that run CELTA courses.
In terms of VISAs, there’s no difference between the two.
And here’s the thing, the syllabus does matter but more important is the quality of the trainer. There are bad trainers and good trainers on both sides and that should be as important to you.
By far, the most popular TEFL certification is the online TEFL course. That’s probably because it’s x5 more affordable than the other courses we’ve mentioned. But that is not all you get, you get the same the syllabus as a classroom-based course and often access to a tutor (with the better online course).
It’s not the same. A classroom-based course will prepare you better, that can’t be argued, especially as teaching practice is such an important part of the learning process. However, money talks and if you are only planning on teaching for 1 year, you might not want to spend $1500-2000 on a course to do it.
Mixed TEFL Course
There are some schools that offer you an online course, with some classroom-based teaching practice, which in some ways gives you the best of both worlds. It is cheaper than a standard classroom course and it gives the teaching practice which is the biggest issue with the online course.
But some might argue it fails to deliver on cost or course quality, so it really depends on your situation. You might really want a classroom-based course, you know it’s the right course for you but it’s just out your budget. This might be the happy medium you’re looking for.
Weekend TEFL Courses
Finally, there are the weekend TEFL courses. These are a unique course. Essentially, they’re a taster course. You get to find out what TEFL is, learn some of the basics of TEFL, meet people also interested in teaching abroad, and you get to have a go. Most people will supplement it with another course, either as a taster before you spend $1500-2000 or to go hand-in-hand with your online course.
However, it’s substantive enough to get visas in some countries. 1 weekend and you could go teach in most of Asia, which is pretty amazing.